Catholic League Girls softball

John Knebels
Sports Columnist

Good athletes face many complicated decisions as they approach the end of their high school career. Among them is whether or not they will continue playing a sport in college.

Since many have been involved with their favorite game since they were very young, simply giving up their pursuits is an understandably difficult task.

As her four-year stint as a first baseman for Archbishop Ryan’s softball team dwindles down to its final few weeks, Jenna Michalowski finds herself in a bit of quandary.

“I’ve been doing this since I was about seven,” said Michalowski, a Christ the King parishioner and grade school alum. “It’s always been a part of me. It’s hard to imagine not playing.”

Next fall, Michalowski will begin classes at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, where she will study to be a veterinarian. She will probably be afforded an opportunity to play softball for the spanision II Devils, which is comprised of talented competitors mostly from local suburbs and South Jersey.

Then again, she isn’t necessarily positive what she will do.

“I don’t want to stop playing,” said Michalowski, whose 5-foot-10 frame has helped her become one of the best defensive first basemen in the Catholic League. “I still enjoy it.”

For good reason.

Currently, the Ragdolls are among a small flock of teams challenging for supremacy in the Catholic League. After dropping three of their first four games, Ryan has won 10 straight and is 8-1 against league foes.

A recent 1-0 victory over title contender Archbishop Carroll was fueled by a sixth-inning double by Michalowski and a run-scoring single by sophomore catcher Christina Zeglinski. The lone run held up thanks to the complete game, shutout pitching of another person by the name of Michalowski – Jenna’s freshman sister Nikki.

Acquiring more time from the mound than originally planned after an injury early in the year sidelined senior Sarah Chilutti, Nikki Michalowski has constructed a sparkling resume that will almost certainly land the young phenom a post-season All-Catholic nomination.

Thus, Nikki becomes the third Michalowski girl to turn heads on the softball diamond. The eldest Michalowski daughter, Sara, is finishing a splendid career at spanision I Hofstra University. The former Ryan standout will finish as Hofstra’s fifth-best run producer of all time and this year’s Most Valuable Player of the Colonial Athletic Association.

“As sisters, we pull for each other, whether or not we can be there in person,” Jenna said. “We were at Sara’s game this weekend. When Nikki and I play, most of our family is there to support us.”

Each of the five Michalowski siblings – including brothers Greg, 25, and John, 23 – are graduates of Archbishop Ryan, as are mom Cathy (class of 1978) and dad Greg (’79). Both John and his father played football; Greg basketball. Cathy was a mainstay in Ryan’s band.

So when Jenna Michalowski, now president of the school’s Ambassadors club, which spreads the word about what is occurring inside and outside of Archbishop Ryan, takes visitors on tours, she does so with tremendous pride for the red, black and gold.

Meanwhile, Jenna’s younger sister is proud.

“I’m glad we got a chance to play together,” said Nikki. “We do the normal sister fighting type of stuff, but being able to play together has helped make us closer.”

And if there is any pressure on the Michalowski girls, they hide it well. Even Nikki expressed a sense of uncommon tranquility for a freshman who is the starting pitcher for a Ryan squad with championship aspirations.

“I’m not nervous,” she said. “I just try to have fun.”

Three years from now, when college beckons, Nikki will have more pressing matters to consider, like whether or not to keep playing softball.

Then again, her sister Jenna offered a different spin on things.

“Deciding if you are going to play in college is actually a nice problem to have,” she said. “Even if you don’t, you can still play on club teams.”

Good point.

John Knebels can be reached at